How Ultra Running Has Changed Rob Krar’s Life and Why Running is the Perfect Escape

Once in a while, life can be so stressful and tough that escape may seem like the only choice. For ultra runner Rob Krar, he believes that running is the best sport to get a moment to escape a complicated world.

If you want to be an ultra runner yourself, read on and find out Rob’s best advice for aspiring and experienced ultra runners, his best ultra-running gear and shoes, and his future plans!

Ultra Runner Rob Krar
Photo credit: James Q Martin

Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

My name is Rob Krar. I‘m originally from Hamilton, Ontario (aka The Hammer) but am lucky to have called Flagstaff home for over a decade now. I know I’m biased but I think Flag is one of the greatest places in the world to be a runner, and especially a trail and ultra runner – amazing and never ending trails, high altitude, and truly great people.

It’s been a busy year thus far with a ton of travelling in the books and much more to come. We just wrapped up our 3rd annual summer Rob Krar Ultra Camp and I’m off to the homeland now to race at The North Face Endurance Challenge Ontario race at Blue Mountain resort where I grew up learning how to ski!

My day job? Slave to our two kittens. All jokes aside, these days I’m putting the pieces together training and racing, hosting running camps, and coaching. It’s a life I never could have imaged and I’m incredibly thankful for it.

Ultra Runner Rob Krar

How and why did you get into ultra running?

It was an unconventional start to the world of ultra running for me. I’ve been an athlete most of my life but after surgery on both my heels in 2010, I was sure my racing days were over. It was a series of fortunate events – beginning with meeting my future wife in 2009 – that the pieces of the puzzle began to come together. An introduction to ski mountaineering the winter of 2011/2012 led to racing short distances on the trails, which then led to racing my first ultra distance. It was an unexpected return to running, a gift really, and I knew I needed to take a different approach than I had in my previous running lives.

The surgery was for Haglund’s deformities. Like most stubborn athletes, I tried to return to training too quickly and really buggered up the recovery process to the point I was sure the surgery wasn’t successful and I’d never run comfortably again, let alone race. I quit running completely with no hopes of ever returning. Funny how it works though as it was leaving running that allowed my body the time it needed to heal, and it also coincided with meeting Christina, falling in love and getting married — another corner piece of the athlete and person I am today.

Ultra Runner Rob Krar
Rob with wife Christina. Photo credit: James Q. Martin

How do you train and become better at ultra running?

Consistency trumps all and I am fortunate to live in one of the greatest places on earth to be an ultra runner. The Flagstaff trails are endless and I can access them right out my door — it’s a rare day when I have a need to drive to the start of a run.

I have been self-coached my entire trail and ultra career and have no plans to change that. I have made enough mistakes and had enough setbacks in my previous running lives to feel confident. I’m running for the right reasons and will have a long career in the sport.

I have a very loose but focused training regimen. I aim for somewhere between 75-100 miles per week during my training blocks but try not to plan the specifics more than a couple days out. I know what I want to accomplish going into each week. Example: One long run, one workout, two strength and conditioning workouts, the other days easy run – but go with the flow as to when during the week I will hit each specific run.

Why is ultra running important for you?

Running, especially the ultra distance, has changed the course of my life in ways I could not have imagined a few years ago. My time, alone on the trails, is a near daily opportunity to escape an increasingly complicated world, to think or not think at all. It is an important part of my sanity and happiness and almost a necessity in a way.

Ultra Runner Rob Krar
Rob Krar Ultra Camp

What are the hardest parts of ultra running?

One of the most unique and fascinating things about racing 100 miles? That you’re sure to go somewhere – mind and body – that you’ve rarely if ever gone before. My longest training run for a 100 mile race is 35 miles, so how is it that I can hope to run almost three times as far come race day? We are all capable of greatness and toeing the line of any ultra event affords the opportunity to discover new depths, harness unknown potential, and shatter perceived limits. It’s a beautiful thing and not something I take for granted.

Once you get a taste of that dark place most experience during an ultra distance race it’s hard not to want to go back and dig a little deeper into the unknown. The experience of training for running 100 miles and the lessons it affords can easily translate to everyday life and contribute to a healthier, more productive and ultimately more satisfying life.

How do you prepare for events and races?

I tailor my training blocks, usually 10-12 weeks long, to the specific race I’m focusing on. Maintaining my strengths and improving my weaknesses is a strategy I feel confident in. It’s always a fine line between training to my potential while not crossing the threshold of overtraining and injury. These days I’m willing to leave the last few percentages of potential in training if it allows me to stand on the starting line healthy and confident. Strength and conditioning is a big part of my training regimen as well and is vital to hold the glue together late in a race when the body tries its best to fall apart.

Ultra Runner Rob Krar

How do you eat and sleep?

I try to get as much rest as possible and always aim for healthy and balanced eating. I don’t like to use specific labels for my diet, and I’m lucky that my wife has a passion for delicious and healthy food. We rarely eat meat – our diet could best be described as primarily grains and greens. I can’t say there is anything I try not to eat – moderation is key.

My calories in racing come primarily from GU Roctane Endurance Drink Mix. At least half my calories come from this and the remaining from GU Gels and Chews. I almost never consume solid fuel during a race, although cold watermelon sprinkled with salt can’t be beat late in a hot race!

I do my best to go to bed at a reasonable time and take advantage of small blocks of time throughout the day to get horizontal and rest the legs. I’ve enjoyed working closely with Flora Health the past few years and include their probiotics, calcium and iron supplements into my daily regimen, not to mention their amazing line of culinary oils and teas.

Ultra Runner Rob Krar
Photo credit: Volker Strobel

How do you handle injuries and recovery?

In the past two years, I’ve formed a partnership with Paragon Athletics, who have helped me rehab injuries and address persistent muscle weaknesses and imbalances. Coming into the 2016 running season with possibly the best cardiovascular fitness of my life after months of racing on my skis, I misjudged the transition to the more impactful pounding of running. I came away with a stress fracture and learned some lessons regarding how best to transition between sports. It’s important for me to find activities I can participate in for my mental health when I’m injured. Mountain biking is often something I turn to, and this resulted in the completion of my first 100 mile mountain bike race at Leadville in 2016

I often use an ice wrap on any particularly sore areas after hard training efforts and races. A lacrosse ball to roll tight areas does wonders and a rope for Active Isolated Stretching is never far away.

What are your best advice people new to ultra running?

Build miles gradually, participate in a few shorter trail races before making the jump to the ultra distance. Respect recovery, especially after races. Find purpose in your running and pay it forward – your example will help others make positive change in their lives. Consistency trumps all in training, strive to find a balance that allows you to push yourself but doesn’t push you to the sidelines because of injury. The little things count! Incorporate strength and conditioning (prehab) into your regimen.

Best advice for people who have been ultra running for years?

With so many new races over the past few years, overtraining and over racing are becoming an increasingly common trend. Consider focusing on just a few goal races a year and don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to a race that doesn’t suit your strengths.

Importantly, remember it’s the little things that can really count in the long term – stretching, strength and conditioning, respecting sleep, eating healthy, rolling, icing, etc.

Ultra Runner Rob Krar
Photo credit: Tjalling Halbertsma

How do you balance normal life with ultra running?

I’m very fortunate to call running, hosting camps, and coaching, a career since 2015. I worked a graveyard shift for the previous 12 years and once I began racing trail and ultra, it quickly became obvious it wasn’t a sustainable lifestyle, something was going to break.

My relationships were suffering, the quality of my training was declining, and I wasn’t able to take advantage of opportunities to travel and race. It was a leap of faith leaving my job as a pharmacist in 2015 but my only regret is not leaving sooner. My time is spent training, travelling and racing of course, but planning and hosting running camps in Flagstaff, and coaching take much of my time. It’s a dream “job” really!

What kind of running shoes and clothes do you use?

My very first sponsor was The North Face and I’ve been proudly representing them since 2013. I’m stoked to have designed a shoe with them that will be released early 2018. It’ll be the first shoe to be included in the Flight Series, which represents their lightest and most advanced running products including my favorite Better Than Naked tops and bottoms.

Shoes: The North Face Flight RKT
Apparel: The North Face Flight Series, especially the Better Than Naked line
Socks: Smartwool PhD Ultra Light Crew

What has been your best sport purchase below $100?

The North Face Trail Trucker has been a part of my training and racing kit for years now, beginning at the Western States 100M race in 2015 when temperatures rose well over 100 degrees during the race. It’s the coolest and lightest trucker I’ve ever owned and blends in just as well in town as it does on the trails.

What other favorite gear do you have?

The VaporKrar 4L & 12L Race Vests and WaistPak were released earlier this year and are always a part of my training and racing kit. It was a really fun project working closely with Nathan from initial brainstorming and conception, to testing prototypes, and finally to market.

Ultra Runner Rob Krar
Photo credit: Tjalling Halbertsma

What will the future bring?

2017 has been the year of stepping out of my comfort zone. I raced ski mountaineering this past winter in Europe for the first time, travelled to Australia for the UTWT 100k, and plan to compete at the UTWT Cape Town 100k in December on a course that will be the most technical I’ve ever attempted. In between I’ll be heading back to the Leadville 100M in August, and travelling back to the homeland for The North Face Endurance Challenge Ontario.

Keep up to date with Rob at www.robkrar.com.


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2 Comments

  1. Great Q&A Rob! How long did it take you to recover from the Haglund’s deformities surgery?

    Do you know of any tricks for recovering from plantar fasciitis and running with plantar fasciitis?

  2. Recently ran my first official 50k. Have done rim to rim to rim multiple times ,lots of marathons and progressing into ultras. And ironman on schedule for this November . And supposed to go end of April. R2r2r. Just got diagnosed with stress fx of fibula running is my drug for my mental health. Been swimming and biking to keep my sanity! Any tips for fast healing. ? I do cross train and also wearing s walking boot if on feet s lot. No pain at this time but only 2 weeks out this Saturday.

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